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Revolution in robotic surgery performed at Mater

A first-of-its-kind procedure for North Queensland was completed at Mater Private Hospital Townsville last week.

Robotic transanal minimally invasive surgery, or rTAMIS, was successfully completed with the assistance of the da Vinci Xi surgical robot for the first time in Townsville during June, Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

Colorectal surgeon, Associate Professor Shinichiro Sakata, said colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia.

Colorectal cancer is so common in Australia, and early detection via our national bowel cancer screening program and screening colonoscopies are paramount. More than 15,000 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in 2022 and its incidence is increasing in younger Australians between the ages of 18 and 50.
Associate Professor Shinichiro Sakata

“Thankfully, the treatment of patients with colorectal cancer continues to advance with new breakthroughs in clinical research and significant world-wide investment in optimising surgical technology, such as the da Vinci Xi surgical robot.”

Ingham electrician David Brodie, 50, was referred to Associate Professor Sakata following tests with his local GP.

I went for a check-up with my GP after noticing that I was frequently passing blood when I went to the toilet. I was immediately referred for a colonoscopy with Dr Crispin Musumba. A few days later, I was informed that I had rectal cancer.
David Brodie, Ingham

“It all happened relatively quickly – I had my check up on 5 May and then had my surgery at the Mater on 14 June. I first met with Associate Professor Sakata on 2 June, and he informed me that my case had already been thoroughly discussed by him and an expert panel of cancer specialists. Dr Sakata proposed using the surgical robot for my surgery.”

Associate Professor Sakata said the da Vinci Xi robot enabled David’s surgery to be undertaken in a minimally invasive way.

“David was fortunate as his colonoscopy was completed by a highly skilled gastroenterologist who detected the rectal cancer early. However, the cancer was quite deep, meaning TAMIS by conventional laparoscopy would have been near-impossible – thankfully, Mater had invested in the da Vinci robot.”

“In hospitals that do not have access to robot-assisted surgery, the recommended treatment may well have been invasive and extensive surgery. Without the robot, I would have recommended an ultra-low anterior resection and a stoma, commonly referred to as a ‘bag.’”

Mr Brodie said the minimally invasive procedure allowed him to return home a day after surgery.

“Traditionally, my surgery would have meant I had extensive surgery and a long recovery in hospital – but thanks to Dr Sakata I had no incisions and no pain whatsoever. I had the procedure on the Wednesday and went home on the Thursday,” he said.

Associate Professor Sakata said the collaboration of specialists allowed for best patient care.

“I undertook formal training in colorectal surgery at the Mayo Clinic, USA. I was privileged to learn the technique of robotic transanal minimally invasive surgery from an international leader in robotic colorectal surgery, Dr Scott Kelley MD. I wholeheartedly acknowledge his great influence and mentorship.”

At Mater Private Hospital Townsville, the close collaboration of colorectal surgeons, gastroenterologists, oncologists, pathologists and radiologists ensures that patient care is of the highest standard.
Associate Professor Shinichiro Sakata

“David’s excellent outcome is a team result. Gastroenterologists Dr Crispin Musumba and Dr Stephen Fairley were also instrumental in David’s pre-operative planning and decision-making. I am humbled that our Mater specialists are united in providing world-class patient care. The needs of our patients always come first.”

Mater Private Hospital Townsville General Manager Stephanie Barwick said offering world-class procedures like this in North Queensland ensured patients did not have to travel to capital cities for surgeries.

Mater is proud to offer robotic-assisted surgeries for improved patient outcomes and better manoeuvrability for our clinicians.
Stephanie Barwick, General Manager

“This procedure was made possible thanks to the da Vinci Xi surgical assist robot, which was funded by Mater’s philanthropic arm, Mater Foundation.

“Today we celebrate Mater Giving Day, where any donations to Mater Foundation are tripled. All funds raised contribute to life-saving equipment, services and research for our not-for-profit facility.

“Mater Private Hospital Townsville has received more than $3 million in equipment and resources from Mater Foundation in the past several years, making robotic-assisted surgeries a reality for North Queensland.”

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